Complex Products Liability Cases Require A Skilled Defense
For years, a 1974 case decided by Oklahoma’s Supreme Court, Kirkland v. General Motors Corp., set product liability lawsuit standards. Businesses facing allegations had to approach their defense differently after the decision.
The decision set new guidelines in product liability lawsuits. Most importantly, it established that manufacturers and sellers are not shielded from product liability lawsuits. Then, in 2014, Oklahoma’s high court passed HB 3365, which provides more protections against liability lawsuits. Call our product liability attorneys at Mahaffey & Gore, P.C., for assistance and guidance if your business is facing a product liability lawsuit.
Kirkland V. General Motors Corp.
This 1974 case set guidelines that stood up for years. The driver’s seat of a car manufactured by General Motors Corp. collapsed backward. As a result, the driver lost control and the car hit the median colliding head-on with another vehicle.
The driver alleged that her injuries were the result of a defective seat and that GM breached “the implied warranty of fitness.” The car company argued that the seat was not defective, and the accident happened because the driver was intoxicated and speeding. That, according to the company, meant the driver was misusing its product.
The court ruled for GM, but the decision was appealed and eventually the company had to issue a product recall. The appellate court ruled that anyone who sells a product that is defective creates an unreasonable danger to consumers and should be held strictly liable.
However, it also added requirements that assist in product liability defense.
Plaintiffs must prove:
- The product caused the injury
- The defect was present when the product left the manufacturer’s control
- The defect made the product “unreasonably dangerous”
The plaintiff must also prove that the defect resulted in personal injury or property damage.
HB 3365 Added More Protections
Oklahoma House Bill 3365, passed in 2014, established that a product’s manufacturer or seller is not liable for injuries if the product:
- Complied with (or exceeded) mandatory government agency safety standards or regulations.
- Was approved by a government agency after it went through premarket licensing and a determination was made on its risks and benefits.